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  1. #1
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    Getting "in the zone" during a ride

    My last few rides have been really good - I feel like I'm just dialed into the trail and am "in the zone". I'm seeing lines & obstacles really well, finding new, more fun and creative lines, my timing is is on, cornering feels smooth, and I'm just having a ton of fun. It's almost like I'm seeing things happen a little slower even though I'm at full speed - kind of like in The Matrix when things slow down and there is more time to react.

    I wish every ride was like this, but sometimes it's the opposite and I feel like I forgot how to ride - the trail is coming at me too fast, it gets blurry, & I start picking bad lines like a klutz. Does anyone else experience this? Is it just all in my head or is it a real phenomenon?

    I've been riding off & on for quite a long time & can't really figure out how or why this happens - is it just getting focused and getting your head in the right place? Is it just confidence? or pure practice / experience and eventually all rides are like this? I would love to figure out how to make every ride like this. Does anybody know what I'm talking about or am I just losing it?

    Thanks!

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    sometimes, I'll smoke a little weed when I'm not feeling it.. and it helps me get in the right frame of mind
    I'm sick of all the Irish stereotypes, as soon as I finish this beer I"m punching someone

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    Getting "in the zone" during a ride

    It's real for me. The bad days my eyes just keep pulling themselves to the front wheel. Every movement feels jerky and jittery, just slow. The good days are just smooth and almost effortless. Even the tired feeling is good.
    All out of S**** and down to my last F***

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by sfgiantsfan View Post
    sometimes, I'll smoke a little weed when I'm not feeling it.. and it helps me get in the right frame of mind
    This. Every ride.

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    I love that (occasional) feeling!

    It usually happens when I'm riding solo, not worrying about trying to catch up to anybody, not worried about anybody pushing me--and not worried about how fabulous my kit looks.
    Friends don't let friends ride e-"bikes" on dirt.

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    I usually have this until I get to "the tree" on Rocky Ridge where my brain shifts into "oh shit, don't fall" mode.

  7. #7
    rox
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    the zone is a real place. sometimes its like you live there and sometimes its location remains totally hidden. its also known as "flow state" and can be found in almost all sports and other activities that require concentration, such as programming

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    Nice thread - subscribed.

    For me, it's frequency, fitness, and focus.

    Frequency - For every four rides, one will be a bad one. Bad climbing and bad descending will plague the day. The key is to work with it and not force the issue cause the next ride is likely to be awesome.

    Fitness and Technique - If I'm fit and riding at 80%, then I'm ready for the downhill with all my senses. And there's 5 things I need to know about how to corner properly. I usually can do a couple of them correctly. But knowing what they are and realizing when I do it right builds on my muscle memory.

    Focus - Sometimes, it's natural that I think of nothing but the 10 turns and 5 drops ahead of me. But sometimes, my brain wanders either cause I'm hungry, tired, restless, intimidated, etc. It takes some mind control to get my mind focused on the task at hand.

    p.s never let your guard down even when you are dialed cause that's when crashes happen.

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  9. #9
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    I recently had a few bad rides (well no such thing as a bad ride but you get my point) where I picked bad lines, couldn't clear what I normally could and felt overly sluggish.
    Thank goodness that is not every ride. When I am in the zone I usually need be caught up on sleep, well hydrated and well fueled by food. I can tell when I am in the zone because I seem to lose conscious thought and all my brain does is scan the trail in front of me and control my body.
    I usually have to be well warmed up to be in the zone too. Sometimes I need a solid 5 miles before I feel my body firing on all cylinders. When I am in the zone I take advantage of it and ride until my body starts to throw in the towel. The feeling of getting back to the truck and being totally drained is a great feeling.

  10. #10
    rox
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    good reading: Flow (psychology) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    especially this part "people with several very specific personality traits may be better able to achieve flow more often than the average person. These personality traits include curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, and a high rate of performing activities for intrinsic reasons only."

    I think mountain biking is almost always an activity that is performed for intrinsic reasons only. we are out there to have fun, learn, and enjoy ourselves and not to achieve an outside goal. for this reason I think mountain biking is one of the easiest ways to find flow, and the flow is what makes it a good escape.

    I think finding this state is something you can practice and improve. but there are still days where it seems impossible.

  11. #11
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    The zone... It is one of the hallmarks of the cult of bike riding, moto riding, making music, writing software, etc. It is about not thinking, letting go of the bills you have to pay when you get home, the dishes you have to do, the dog you have to walk.

    I've been lucky that I can just zone out the random day to day crap my mind drags at the drop of a hat and get into the "zone". It too me years to learn to let go and be one with the bike and my surroundings, but I think I'm there. I point the bike down... and BAM, one fun downhill trip to awesome town.

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    For me, "the zone" is a meditative state. It's beyond concentration...it's the absence of concentration. Act and react. Flow. Awareness without being aware.

    Any kind of climbing breaks the zone for me because it gets me back in my head. "This hurts", "What's my line up this?", etc.

    Years ago, weed used to help but I don't need it anymore.

    "The zone" is why I ride a mountain bike and not a road bike in general.

    The trails up above 9 are zone city for me.

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    I have heard people talk about their "bike disappearing from under them". I totally know what they mean. You feel like bike is an extension of your body. You can sense that the root you just rolled over with your front tire might make your rear tire slide. You can sense that your pedal might be a little too low in a rock garden.

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    Regarding the sometimes it's on/sometimes it's off... I've noticed a correlation between this flow state and what else is going on in my life that's not even related to riding. Earlier this week I was a basket case and was riding silly slow. I think I achieved my slowest time in like 3 years on a friggin easy fire road. I've ridden that thing a thousand times! It was comical. Then things broke through and I was ok, and back to makin' pr's, but more importantly, feeling smooth and effortless... I was pumin'! (Pyume! pyume!)

    Urban Dictionary: Pume
    Half the planet is deep into bloody tribal mayhem. We’re just riding bikes (and drinking beer) here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by shredchic View Post
    I was pumin'! (Pyume! pyume!)

    Urban Dictionary: Pume
    I like it.

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    Getting "in the zone" during a ride

    Yes I experience this too. Some days I'm fast... Some days I'm slow. I find when I try too hard to beat someone or set out to bust a new PR it affects me negatively. If I can just get myself to "not think" I'm always faster... Up and down. I'll even shove my phone in an outside pocket and bust some tunes... That helps too
    I hope you have a big trunk... cause I'm gonna put my bike in it!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by francois View Post
    p.s never let your guard down even when you are dialed cause that's when crashes happen.
    Got a great reminder of this a couple of days ago at the very bottom of P. Chute after "zoning" for a few hours on my first SS ride at UC Wilder: glanced down to the road in a lapse in concentration/moment of paranoia, dropped off a rock, grabbed a handful, and got ejected from Zone City!

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Hungus View Post
    For me, "the zone" is a meditative state. It's beyond concentration...

    "The zone" is why I ride a mountain bike and not a road bike in general.

    The trails up above 9 are zone city for me.
    Yes, yes, and aawyeah. Pume on!


    VV Eeyeww! That's what coffee's for, Julie.
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  18. #18
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    Yeah, there seems to be somethin' about trying too hard that messes with it. When you're trying too hard you are clenched up and tight, but relaxation is a part of flow. Kinda like when you're tryin' to take a shit in the morning.
    Half the planet is deep into bloody tribal mayhem. We’re just riding bikes (and drinking beer) here.
    ~Fairfaxian

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    Yep - that zone is when your brain's synapses are firing on all cylinders. MTB is not a sport where your mind can wander. Full focus is critical, for not doing something potentially fatal. Researchers found MTB produces more Adrenaline per minute, than many motion-based sports. Adrenaline in moderate quantities, has been found to retard the aging process significantly, by suppressing the formation of cellular free-radicals and other oxidative compounds, relating to inflammation and even cancer. I'm no PhD - but I tend to believe that finding.
    "Just because I drive a Porsche... doesn't make me Pete Fagerlin"

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachariah View Post
    Researchers found MTB produces more Adrenaline per minute, than many motion-based sports. Adrenaline in moderate quantities, has been found to retard the aging process significantly, by suppressing the formation of cellular free-radicals and other oxidative compounds, relating to inflammation and even cancer. I'm no PhD - but I tend to believe that finding.
    Where did you see this?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Hungus View Post
    Where did you see this?
    I saw it as a Doctoral Dissertation, at Stanford University.
    "Just because I drive a Porsche... doesn't make me Pete Fagerlin"

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachariah View Post
    I saw it as a Doctoral Dissertation, at Stanford University.
    Sounds interesting. Is it on the web somewhere?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Hungus View Post
    Sounds interesting. Is it on the web somewhere?
    It was an archived, hard copy, at the University Library. I read it in 2004. The dis was dated sometime in 1999. My long-term memory is good - yet, I cannot recall the author's name! I had the impression the alumni was an older, hardcore MTB racer who felt a burst of rejuvenation, after each of his rides. I'm 49 and since I took up MTB in 2006 - people all tell me I don't look a day over 29(zero gray hair/body fat helps!).
    "Just because I drive a Porsche... doesn't make me Pete Fagerlin"

  24. #24
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    I wouldn't call that feeling "in the zone", yours sounds more like a "riders high". That moment when everything is going right, the bike feels light through the turns, the tires are relentless to let go, and your arms rhythmically moving under you as the bike glides through the forest. You can feel every bump and turn as if those knobs were part of your very body and existence. Ultimately, you would never want the trail to end as you are drunk in the ecstasy of the forest and dirt.

    P.S. be glad it doesn't happen every time, it's like that girl you just cant have. Wouldn't be special now if you got it when you wanted it.

  25. #25
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    I've been meaning to post this question in a while:

    How do people train to have more focus while riding? I mean focus on positive thoughts about riding (or absence of thoughts). Not thinking about work or relationship stuff or that the rear tire sucks and is getting no traction.

    Has anybody tried meditation or have any tips?
    Correct number of bikes: n+1 bikes
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moto'n'PushBiker View Post
    I've been meaning to post this question in a while:

    How do people train to have more focus while riding? I mean focus on positive thoughts about riding (or absence of thoughts). Not thinking about work or relationship stuff or that the rear tire sucks and is getting no traction.

    Has anybody tried meditation or have any tips?
    I use the advice from a clinic with Gene Hamilton, and do a ride every now and then where I just make it my intention to work on one of the various flow-inducing techniques of riding, i.e. attack/neutral position, keeping my elbows out and head up, cornering, looking ahead, pedaling smoothly and efficiently. I find it gives my brain something to occupy itself with that's relevant to the current moment.

    I'd recommend going to yoga class regularly, too, where you are really encouraged to focus on the breath and given the space to release concern about all the endless crud running around inside yo' head. 4 out of 5 people who have practiced meditation a lot agree that you can't really stop the constant mental chatter, but you can identify less with it. And it gets pretty esoteric from there, so I won't pretend to know what I'm talking about.
    Half the planet is deep into bloody tribal mayhem. We’re just riding bikes (and drinking beer) here.
    ~Fairfaxian

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    Getting "in the zone" during a ride

    Quote Originally Posted by GnarBrahWyo View Post
    I have heard people talk about their "bike disappearing from under them". I totally know what they mean. You feel like bike is an extension of your body.
    Last time my bike "disappeared from under me" we became one with a tree lol
    I hope you have a big trunk... cause I'm gonna put my bike in it!

  28. #28
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    I've definitely experienced this at times. Usually it mostly goes away after I've been riding for 15 - 20 minutes. Sometimes I'm tired after work and don't really want to ride. I'm just not feeling the killer instinct. But I force myself, and I usually end up having at least a good, if not great ride.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moto'n'PushBiker View Post
    I've been meaning to post this question in a while:

    How do people train to have more focus while riding? I mean focus on positive thoughts about riding (or absence of thoughts). Not thinking about work or relationship stuff or that the rear tire sucks and is getting no traction.

    Has anybody tried meditation or have any tips?
    I set intentions before every ride. They are usually based on how I'm feeling at the time. If I'm feeling tired I set an intention of being awake and present. I basically set an intention that when I get on my bike I will be in the appropriate state of mind for what lies ahead.
    If I'm riding with really fit technical riders, my intention is to learn as much as I can. Instead of the monkey mind telling me I'm not fast enough, not technical enough, I can't hang....
    I also calm myself if I'm hyper feeding off the crews energy getting too silly as that usually means I'm not taking the risks I'm facing seriously.

    And if I'm riding sketchy, can't focus, can't quite the chatter. I take a break, get off my bike, stretch, breathe and have some water. Then I feel a bit refreshed, like I started a new ride.

    Push out the negative chatter, quiet your mind and the flow of the ride comes to you.

  30. #30
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    Gettin in the zone....

    Getting "in the zone" during a ride-img_0423.jpg

    Getting "in the zone" during a ride-img_0421.jpg

    DISCLAIMER!!!
    P.S. MODS- I FOUND THESE IMAGES ON THE INTERWEBS.
    NOT MINE!!
    THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT I DO BEFORE, DURING, OR AFTER RIDES.
    JUST GOIN FOR LAUGHS.

    GOGO
    Banned for showing Boobies.

  31. #31
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    I love that this thread has brought out all the stoners.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moto'n'PushBiker View Post
    I've been meaning to post this question in a while:

    How do people train to have more focus while riding? I mean focus on positive thoughts about riding (or absence of thoughts). Not thinking about work or relationship stuff or that the rear tire sucks and is getting no traction.

    Has anybody tried meditation or have any tips?
    Yeah ride harder, takes your mind off of pretty much anything. Beyond that it is tough for me to get out of my mind on a ride just like sleeping. The thing that works for me is that I can process whatever I am thinking about but cannot move to quickly as the demands of riding need priority. It slows my brain down a bit and that really works for me just like a therapy session.

    Embracing the extra thoughts and not pressuring yourself will often allow much easier access to the zone. If all else fails stop, a whack the back of the head to realize the beauty we travel through, gulp some water and prep for that next PR!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Hungus View Post
    I love that this thread has brought out all the stoners.
    According to stoner folklore there is a similarity in chemistry/physiology between "in the zone" and "stoned." This is part of the reason weed is a banned substance according to WADA. Anyone know if there is any truth to this?

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    In The Zone

    Just like what makes golf so hard. Its not what's in your hands. It'
    s what is between your ears !

  35. #35
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    Some really good & interesting insight here so far; glad that this appears to be a real, tangible thing & not something that only exists in my head. I was very intrigued reading that Wiki link about Flow & the research done on it - seems like it would be tricky to study scientifically, but the way it was described it really jived with what I was experiencing - especially the part about experiencing time at a different rate and the euphoria and addiction involved.

    Someone else mentioned the concept of Rider's High - I was thinking that's what this feeling was, but I remember reading about the high associated with intense aerobic exercise - usually called Runner's High - caused by endorphins released when you really push yourself aerobically - I recall reading that this happens when you have been pushing yourself and feel like you are getting exhausted, then suddenly you get a boost and feel euphoric because you basically just got a hit of natural opium. The experience I have been having doesn't necessarily happen when I have really been pushing myself - it can be before I even really get my heart rate up, so not sure if it is endorphins - probably does have something to do with a chemical release of some sort though - probably why others associate it with some pharmaceutical enhancement!

  36. #36
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    Interesting thread. Definitely know the feeling. When I am "One with the Bike" it is a truly meditative state. When I'm not it is usually because I'm sleep deprived, focused on work, relationships, etc. One thing I notice is on steep climbs I tend to think about things other than the ride. How quick I can lose those thoughts and focus once I get up to speed determines the flow. The difference is micro-seconds in reaction time yet it makes all the difference.
    I find the same thing in surfing, but in biking the trail remains the same.

  37. #37
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    This is a great thread! I was addicted to golf a long time ago in my teens. I finally figured out to shut up or down and learned to patiently swing without trying to smash the ball. MAGIC bingo zen moment. Long before becoming a stoner zoner, I've always been a cyclist for transportation, recreation being a result of getting into mountain bikes in the 80's. I've come to consider the bicycle a vehicle of transcendence which was and is by leaps and bounds the wisest investment I have ever made. Although I've also practiced Hatha yoga daily since '78, any cycling is a more efficient route into "the zone" considering it's practical interface with day to day transport needs. So yes, I like to take a little hit of this or that as well sometimes but not enough to get stupid and just ride ride ride. Definitely breaks down the golden gate! Never fails to open the door into what we call the zone. I wish everyone on this planet would mush till they hush and join us in this awesome place before it's too late.

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    for me I generally need to take a big dump before I ride, then only eat a very small amount. Try to ride within 2 hours of waking up. I think when you ride when your not fully awake (such as up a trail) your zone starts turning on. when descending it should be on. Also I have found at times a longer break from riding ( week or so), will give you a loose and inspirational next ride, that will be easy to get into the zone.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by schoolisbad1 View Post
    for me I generally need to take a big dump before I ride, then only eat a very small amount. Try to ride within 2 hours of waking up.
    I'm such a weight weenie - I also find the mandatory dump essential.
    "Just because I drive a Porsche... doesn't make me Pete Fagerlin"

  40. #40
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    Weed, Willie Nelson, and night riding. Manifest "the zone".

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    Flow is about letting go and being in the moment. I believe there is an inverse relationship between using products like strava and achieving flow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Overhillthruthewoods View Post
    Flow is about letting go and being in the moment. I believe there is an inverse relationship between using products like strava and achieving flow.
    Many here rip Strava apart. Personally, I love it and I use it to stay focussed. Being aware of the fact that I'm trying to achieve either faster uphill or faster downhill segment times helps me focus and sets a conscious intention. Now, I'm not the guy that stops and reaches to pause Strava on a break. I'm not that anal about it. I let time flow as it should. Strava is not the bad guy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JHH View Post
    Many here rip Strava apart.
    Seriously! What is with that?

    It just seems that lately, wherever I turn, whatever thread I read, or newsletter I subscribe to or Facebook page I'm on, there's yet another unrelated thread derailed by someone just completely hatin' on Strava, calling all of its users "stravatards" and the like (the vast majority of whom they have never even met), and insinuating that only non-strava-users are real and true mountain bikers, the real, "gnarly" ones. Or they start blaming Strava for the limitations of consumer-grade GPS/satellite data, (as if Mapmyride or Garmin connect won't show the exact same limitations). Or they pick one trail in surrounded by steep hillsides with lots of tree cover and use that as an example to try to say that all segments are just as dicey, and then make the leap of concluding that all Strava users are idiots. Well I got news for you: Yes, we know the technology is imperfect actually, and don't actually put a whole lot of faith in every segment, every time, and we don't actually treat it like a real race. But if you actually used Strava more than once, you'd eventually figure out that not all segments are as dicey as Endor, and you can actually tell if there is a temporary anomaly. You know who's actually fast and who is lucky. You know who the locals are who have mastered those segments due to constant practice, and those who just showed up and rode them for the first time. You know the pros. You know enough to not put too much stock in or get too upset at your rankings. You know enough to not really care about your ranking when there are lots of people on the trail or you're riding with your buddies or you are just feeling mellow that day. You know that half the fast people you know aren't even on Strava. You know enough to make certain rides private. You have discovered the other features of Strava that have nothing to do with speed, and find them fun.

    Not in the top-ten all the time? Losing out because the day you rode that trail it was slick or blown-out, or there was a tree down or the satellite drifted a little bit? Or, maybe you wanted to hit all the jumps at Demo that day and didn't come out as fast as some others? Well what makes you think the top 5 didn't also hit all the jumps or hit it on bad trail conditions? So here's my point (finally): Using Strava actually requires you to lose a little face sometimes! So, Strava is indeed quite hazardous... to BIG EGOS! If you have a big ego, best get off of it asap! But, from what I've observed I think it's a self-correcting process.
    Last edited by shredchic; 07-24-2013 at 03:43 PM. Reason: too much bold italics
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    It's kinda true - Strava feeds the inflated egos of those self-aggrandizing types; those are the same people who LIKE their own Facebook posts(even though nobody else is amused).
    "Just because I drive a Porsche... doesn't make me Pete Fagerlin"

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    Use strava all you want. Like it or not, it makes you focus on something other than being in the moment. You are focused on an end result. Flow has little if anything to do with achieving a kom or pr. Time is meaningless when you achieve flow.

  46. #46
    I like mtn biking, too
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    Getting "in the zone" during a ride

    Obviously no one understood a single word I wrote. Don't know why I bothered. Sorry! Back to the regularly scheduled program.
    Half the planet is deep into bloody tribal mayhem. We’re just riding bikes (and drinking beer) here.
    ~Fairfaxian

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    What if everyone quit trying to quantify every ride, and Strava every ride and just had fun? Maybe then the "flow" would follow. I don't care positive or negative two shits about Strava. Fun and tapping in to the real reason we ride means much more. Carry on.
    "It's just that nobody likes Cornfish." francois

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by shredchic View Post
    Obviously no one understood a single word I wrote. Don't know why I bothered. Sorry! Back to the regularly scheduled program.
    Strava is like religion or politics to mountain bikers. Everyone just spouts out their opinion and no one even listens to anyone else. I agree with your post and I don't use strava.

  49. #49
    JHH
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    Quote Originally Posted by Overhillthruthewoods View Post
    Use strava all you want. Like it or not, it makes you focus on something other than being in the moment. You are focused on an end result. Flow has little if anything to do with achieving a kom or pr. Time is meaningless when you achieve flow.
    Hey shredchic. That was a great post. I know some of those dudes....HA.

    Have any of you read: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi book FLOW?

    Flow is personal. How you get there is up to you. Just because Strava is running doesn't mean I'm distracted by it. What distracts you is different than what distracts me. Strava is like any tool, it's how you use it. Having routines and process that get you into YOUR personal state of flow are yours to design. Athletes use Flow to achieve superior performance.

    The minute the little button is pressed, device tucked into my jersey. It's part of my process to get in my flow state for the ride. My intentions are set. Mind starts to quiet as pedals turn. It's personal, it's your ride. Your fun. Live it.

  50. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Overhillthruthewoods View Post
    Use strava all you want. Like it or not, it makes you focus on something other than being in the moment. You are focused on an end result. Flow has little if anything to do with achieving a kom or pr. Time is meaningless when you achieve flow.
    By that definition no athlete in a competition intending to win can achieve flow. Given that there's a lot of writing about flow by professional athletes that can't be right.

    I would still like to hear suggestions on how to achieve flow easier. That advice taking a dump before ride was great - I guess
    Correct number of bikes: n+1 bikes
    Correct body weight: m-10 pounds

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